Sunday, May 24, 2009

Venice in Saigon....really!

A couple of days following the food poisoning episode, which you will learn about later, I felt well enough to go exploring again. I was annoyed that two entire days of my vacation had been ruined by having to rest in bed and drink salty water. But, here was a new day, and a chance to get to know Saigon. So, with my trusted yellow cap securely on my head, off we went.

The Venezia Restaurant, which is located on the street level of the Continental Hotel, saw us more than once during this trip. This was the first time, as we made our way from the Indochine Hotel and stopped in for lunch. What an ideal way to escape the midday heat! The atmosphere is more Italian than anything else, as you catch a glimpse of the white-and-red-checkered cotton tablecloths (by day only; at night, the linens change to pure white). Dark wood doors and wood trim frame the room. Huge windows give the diner an eagle’s eye view of one of the busiest intersections in Saigon. Luckily, both times, we had window tables.

Italian all the way....

I couldn’t help but notice a huge, well stocked bar near the rest rooms, which were impeccably clean. And then, there are several bottles on a tabletop in the middle of the restaurant just waiting to be "plucked". Each table had two menus: the regular lunch menu and the pizza (8 varieties) menu. Chef Leonardo Lanfranconi and his staff bring Venice to your door; no kidding. Small touches, like two sets of glasses, way too many forks and spoons, and a small vial with a fresh flower on each table adds to the mood. 

Since they serve Vietnamese food as well, they required chopsticks and Oriental soup spoons--spoon rests are all there. It is obvious that someone knows how to turn linen napkins into birds or some such thing. We digressed from Vietnamese food that day and indulged with pasta, Bolognese for me, with clams and white sauce for Chuck. White wine and water drowned some of the garlic, but rest assured, the plates hardly needed to be washed after we were done. It is positively amazing how well spaghetti is prepared in Vietnam. We had it at the City View Cafe in Hanoi, and it was superb! Again when we went to Sapa a year later, and it was heavenly. 

Service is extremely courteous, and dangerously slow, but it’s a great reminder that hurry is not the order of the day. When the bill comes, be prepared to see a letter-size invoice with your damages in dong and U.S. dollars. Still, I can't help but giggle to see 80,000 anything for two dishes of pasta. 
There was a wedding party going on that evening at the Continental Hotel

Our second visit to the Venetian was our last night in Saigon as we regaled ourselves with a yummy Italian dinner just before we went for cocktails at the Saigon Bar across the street at the Caravelle Hotel. Now that we were hotel guests, we were quickly recognized and given a wonderful table. Live music filled the air, now that the piano had a human sitting in front of it, and three ladies accompanied him, one with a guitar, a cellist, and a violinist. Unfortunately, the pictures of the musicians, and of the restaurant were dreadful, as they were blurred, and off-color. The only ones I could save are what you see right here. This probably means another visit is required...
A large group from France was gregariously enjoying their dinner, and I never heard English until an American couple sat next to us.

The wine came to our table chilled, and I suggested we do the pizza del padrone, which had cheese, tomato sauce, and spinach with the tomato and mozzarella salad. Bread and butter are always present, and I do try so hard to ignore that. In summation, it seemed that no matter what we ordered, it was always excellent. Compliments to the Chef. 

la pizza del padrone


Anonymous said...

Two as one, we all dream about this in life, charming couple. La Pizza looks inviting.

Chuck Kuhn said...

This is killing me. I rather be there with you then here. I got some good bites for trip in Sept or Dec. We have to go together, but only as One Couple united, I made a mistake. I want to make this right, NO more games, Honest CK